When a super star is sold in January, everyone involved in the deal should be concerned. Even when at the buying club the transfer could be seen as rescuing the season, it shows clear cracks in its structure. For the selling club the consequences are dreadful too.
Let’s start with Arsenal. There is little chance of finding a worse managed club right now in England. Last summer, when Alexis Sánchez entered in the final season of his current deal and Arsène Wenger’s contract was extended (a very regrettable move on its own), that was the moment when all parties should had sat down and made a decision. The right one.
Perhaps PSG would rather have paid £60 million for Alexis than £198 million for Neymar if they’d been given the opportunity. For Arsenal, it was shameful not to sell a player who in a year’s time was going to walk out for free and might not feel 100 per cent committed during the campaign. They opted for keeping the player and dreaming about a contract extension only to end up losing the asset five months later. Stubborn thinking led to poor planning.
Alexis has clearly not been happy at Arsenal for a long time and he knows he won’t get the titles he’s aiming for there. It seems his agent hasn’t done a good job either, leaving him to see his contract expire at a club where he doesn’t want to stay. If he had truly fancied a move, a number of big clubs would have queued up for his signature. But in the summer they waited for the magic to happen on deadline day and they found themselves short of time to complete it.
For the player, switching clubs in January isn’t the best move from either psychological or sporting standpoints. Mourinho has chaotically and unsuccessfully tried to find Manchester United’s best football for the second season running and the environment right now at Old Trafford puts a hell of lot of pressure on any new addition to the squad. There’s no transition, no way to work out a smooth introduction to the team. Alexis will be thrown to the dogs and judged mercilessly if he fails to deliver. Time for him to adapt? ZERO.
For the same reason his arrival could be painful for United. This deal, done in a rush, requiring a player to go in the opposite direction, only shows Mourinho’s and Manchester United’s lack of vision and success in the previous transfer windows, despite being very active in the market.
It shows too how desperate Mourinho is about matching his city rival’s spending to enable them to fight them for the Premier League title (the next one), but he’s not thriving with his already packed squad nor carving out his own success. He doesn’t want to build his own football; he prefers to buy it done.
Alexis Sánchez move from Arsenal to Manchester United is therefore a clear symptom of weakness in all the entities involved in the deal and will decisively alter the conpeting forces for the Champions League spots.
The real fee received by the selling club will be marginal compared to what they could have got if business had been done at the right moment, while the buying one is already paying the ridiculous high price of needing a product out of the bargain season. In six months this same asset could have been landed at no cost. It’s an unmistakeable sign that they are all losers.
Alejandro Pérez is a Premier League expert, commentator, and the author of ‘More than 90 minutes’, the first football book of its kind, available here.